Morning Sickness

Pregnancy comes with so many surprises and bodily changes that the small things sometimes get overlooked. A lot of women complain about morning sickness, but it’s not on the top of many pregnant womens’ hot list. For many pregnant women, it’s tolerable because it doesn’t last long or it isn’t really bad. But for those women who really suffer from nausea when pregnant, let me tell you what I learned by listening to my patients.

potato chips

Most people talk about nausea, but morning sickness is really a combination of hypoglycemia and motion sickness. In your first trimester, your body has to increase it’s blood volume by several liters [?]. This increase in blood volume leads to your having low blood sugar part of the time. In addition, your baby will get the blood sugar it needs first, possibly leaving you dizzy and unable to eat.
There are medications for morning sickness, but I would urge you to try to manage your morning sickness with diet and exercise. You should always consider the risk of what you put in your body while pregnant. In the 50s and 60s, the drug thalidomide was used to help pregnant women with nausea. After about 10 years unexplained birth defects were showing up. The birth defects were traced to Thalidomide and caused serious birth defects in thousands of children. Today there are studies that Tylenol causes side effects in pregnancy.

The curious think about this study that despite the possible harm to the baby, the conclusion stated some women might still want to take it for pain. I would suggest that no matter what you read, you may not want to risk the kinds of side effects to your baby despite what this article says. From my experience, morning sickness can be managed with diet and exercise.

I recommend trying to manage morning sickness without medications if at all possible. Keep a snack beside your bed, eat it, and lay back down a bit before getting out of bed. This can be a cracker and some juice, or if this doesn’t sound very good to you, go for a few potato chips and small bit of coke. This will allow your blood sugar to stabilize a bit before you get out of bed.
When you get up, don’t run to the shower. Get yourself to the kitchen and have a good old fashioned breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast. You need fat, protein, and carbohydrates. This is not the time to avoid carbs in your diet. If you really can’t look at an iHOP breakfast in the morning, try oatmeal with some butter and sugar and for protein, a small piece of unprocessed cheese. This is the time to avoid the cold cereal breakfast even if it’s easy and fast.You are trying to get your blood pressure and stabilized.

After eating, please don’t hop up and run to your car, unless you like throwing up out the car window on the way to work. Give the food about 10 minutes to do it’s work before getting into the car and going to work. This is a good time to check the newspaper headlines on your iPad.
The goal is to eat like a diabetic. Three meals a day and three little meals in between.  All meals should contain protein, fat, and carbohydrates, about 1/3 of each. Or if you just can’t stand the thought of that amount of fat in your diet, 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, and 20 percent fat. But this is truly a time to add fat to your diet if you are currently eating a no-fat diet.

Weight is always tricky. Some of us really have a much harder time not gaining weight than others. With this diet, you should gain about 2 to 3 pounds a month. If you are carrying twins, you should gain about 4 pounds a month.

And finally, a little exercise will help suppress the morning sickness. If you already have a regular exercise program, don’t try to change it at this time. If it’s strenuous, you might want to reduce the exertion over time. If you don’t have a regular exercise regimen, start walking a bit further than you normally do.

Most morning sickness can be controlled with diet and exercise. Give it a try!

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Dr. Alan Lindemann

Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB/GYN)​

He is an obstetrician and maternal mortality expert with 4 decades of medical practice beginning in Minnesota and presently in North Dakota. He has delivered around 6,000 babies with zero maternal deaths.